I am not talking about the love you may feel for a particular flavour of ice cream, sports team, car or blog. Or even the kind you feel for your great Aunt Mary or your pet dog Digger.
I’m talking about romantic love. And for the month of February I am keen to get your thoughts.
The love phenomenon has been pulled apart, examined to death and trodden all over by millions of poets, songwriters and authors who have written about falling in love, love gone wrong, unrequited love and broken hearts.
Love is, after all, what makes the world go round.
So much so that we use the word quite liberally in the English language and it is now a double edged sword with many different meanings. We can love someone and wish them well then this same emotion can suddenly turn to hate and we would love to see some harm come their way. It's hardly any surprise that love can be so confusing.
The way we define love may depend on where we happen to be sitting in the love equation. Is it a meeting of hearts and minds, a friendship set on fire, or is it like luck where you have to go all the way to find it or perhaps it’s nothing more than a kind of temporary insanity driven by hormones. What do you think?
No matter how you define it or feel it, love is a universal phenomenon which stretches across cultures. Scientists now admit that human beings have a biological predisposition to love and that it is not just a cultural fantasy. We need to love and be loved.
I think love is a combination of lust, romance and attachment. I think each of these can operate in any order or in any combination. You can fall in love with someone before you sleep with them; you can become deeply attached to somebody and then fall in love with them; and you can have a sexual relationship, fall in love and then become deeply attached. I would hope that no matter what the process taken to get there, the desired outcome is that you share a caring compatible relationship built on trust and respect, no matter how imperfect parts of it happen to be.
Lust comes easy. It’s a craving for sexual gratification, which you can feel for a whole range of people. With romantic love we focus all our attention on the object of our affection. Not only do we crave them, but we are highly motivated to win them, obsessively think about them and becoming extremely sexually possessive.
Scientists believe that romantic love is one of the most powerful neutral systems that has evolved. Even more powerful than sex drive. Thankfully as blissful as being in love is, it’s not really conducive to live in this romantic state for 20 years because you’re distracted by it, you can’t think of other things, you have a conviction that no-one else in the world has ever felt this way before, you forget what you’re doing, you probably don’t eat properly, you don’t sleep well and you go through highs and lows every hour of every day.
My first crush was at 9. His name was Gary. He reminded me of a cuddly koala bear with glasses. I used to pass him love notes and cards in class. My best friend fancied his twin brother David. We had plans of a double wedding and living on a farm together. That was before Sister Eustace put a stop to it and ruined our dreams of a happy ever after. I am sure I had the wedding dress designed and the children’s names selected. Interfering old bat! How dare she put our education before matters of the heart. What if he had been the one all along?
My first serious romance was with someone I met in high school. He was different. His family was different. And my parents kept reiterating that point, loudly and often. He dropped out of school, was a drummer in a band and was an advocate for every alternative lifestyle choice known to man. I thought he was so cool. I went overseas and came back and he was still cool. I woke up one day some years later and saw this girl in the mirror, dressed in a long batik skirt, cheesecloth top, with flowing hair, eating raw foods, considering joining the Baha’i faith, and moving to an alternative community with a rosy cheeked baby on her hip. I wondered what the hell had happened. The pink mist of love lifted its veil abruptly. I was trying to live someone else’s life which seemed to have no bearing on who I was at all. I just wasn’t right for him. No matter how cool he was.
Some of us don’t learn our lessons though. It is normally wise to wait until brain function is fully restored after we fall in love before making a decision to marry or have kids.
When the mist of love eventually lifts and we see our loved one for who they are and we are tolerant enough to accept each other’s failings, we can reach a place of relative calm and security. For half of us long term relationships work. For the other half, its hasta la vista baby and the journey continues.
I think everyone dreams of the great love story. Some of us think we found it only to discover we haven’t. Some of us get one or more chances and many of us don’t find it at all. Some of us settle for whatever love we can find. For every great love story there is also an equally painful one.
My grandmother, who left behind wonderful diaries of her 67 year marriage, always said that if you want the great love story of your life you have to be right for someone else. The best way to do that is to be right for yourself first as opposed to waiting for someone else to be right for you.
I wish you lots of love out there. The right kind of course.
What does love mean to you? Have you found the love of your life? Do you believe in soul mates? Do you have a question about love you want answered by readers?
Next post in the series - Is Love blind?